Basics When Looking at Tarot Card Meanings
There are two types of cards in the Tarot deck: Major Arcana and Minor Arcana cards. The Minor Arcana cards are in suits: Wands, Swords, Cups and Discs and are numbered Ace through 10, and the court cards Page, Knight, Queen and King. The Major Arcana cards are all the other cards and have a relationship to the suits, but are not tied to a specific suit. Major Arcana cards represent principles, concepts or ideals. Minor Arcana cards represent the variety of ways those principles can manifest in the everyday or mundane world. The principles represented in the Major Arcana are from past ideas that our culture has not been taught. When interpreting tarot card meanings it is wise to take this into account and avoid applying present day meanings to these past time symbols. Tarot card meanings also vary according to whether the card shows up in a reading in its upright position or is what is called reversed (meaning it is upside down) and according to its position in the reading and what other cards it appears with. This is why just memorizing definitions of cards will not give you the best readings. Having a general idea of what the card represents and being able to relate those meanings to a specific reading will give you a much better interpretation or "picture" of the reading as a whole.
Let's take an example of how to think about a particular Major Arcana card (as we do in our Tarot Homestudy Course) and see examples of the principles behind the card that you can use as a guideline. Notice also how we point out symbols on the card itself and how you might apply them to the meaning when interpreting a particular reading. The Devil card is one many people are familiar with and one that is widely misused in media productions.
The Devil card does not represent the Christian Satan or evil. It is concerned more with principles of materialism and how we handle our contracts in the material world. In the Upanisheds, ancient writings from India, we learn there are two major errors. One is to become materialistic and the other is becoming overly concerned with spiritual things thus ignoring the material. Since we as spiritual beings have chosen to be here in physical bodies we have to strive to find a balance between the spiritual and the material. How the Devil card appears in a reading and what other cards it appears with can give us information on how we are doing in this regard. It can relate to how the spiritual being is doing in handling the contracts it makes through having a physical body and in the material world. This card is a good one for long-term contracts such as a house mortgage. If the card is upright, then you are handling these types of things well. If it is reversed, then these types of issues are being mishandled either by you getting too spiritual or too materialistic. In some way the two sides are out of balance.
When looking at the card, notice the pentagram is upside down. In the upright position this signifies going from upper levels to lower. If the card was reversed or upside down the significance would change to imply something going from lower to higher. Also notice the two beings on either side of the Devil. The chains around them are loose implying that they are bound only by their own choice. It can also imply that materialism doesn't have to drag you down, that you have a choice. You can see too that he is perched on a stand and having to maintain balance. Noticing these things in the card can also give you clues as to the meaning.
As we said earlier, much of the interpretation of the card depends on the other cards in the reading and where the card falls in the reading. Here are some other guidelines to consider when looking at The Devil card in a reading:
- How we spiritually work in the material world
- How we create an effect in the material world as a spiritual being
- How we are able to manifest in the material world
- How we deal with materialism
- How balanced are we between the spiritual and the material
- Could be concerned with higher level contracts, those that cover a long span in our lives and hold to the Rules of the Road (Universal Laws governing magical practice)
- Contract dealing with birth vision or spiritual contracts made before coming into body
The Devil card deals with the higher and the lower. If you were looking at something to do with a contract just on the material plane then Emperor would be the card to designate this. With the Devil card you are looking at how it affects you on the material and the spiritual planes.
As you can see from this example, just memorizing a single definition would limit your interpretation of a reading severely. Looking at the reading as a whole and considering the arrangement of the cards, looking at symbols in the cards and having a basic understanding of tarot card meanings allows you to put together a much more individualized reading specific to what signifiers you are using and to the person you are doing the reading on. To learn more about how to do Tarot card readings and about tarot card meanings, check out our Tarot course in the Esoteric School store.
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